New Jersey Announces Plans to Lift Most Remaining COVID-19 Safety Restrictions, Including Indoor Mask Mandate

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced on Monday another set of rollbacks to the state’s COVID-19 safety restrictions. The state’s indoor mask mandate will be lifted on Friday, May 28.

In addition to the indoor mask mandate being lifted, New Jersey will lift all restrictions on dance floors at bars/restaurants and ordering, eating, and drinking while standing at bars and restaurants, effective Friday. The state will also lift its current mandate on social distancing in public settings — all changes consistent with the CDC’s updated guidance for vaccinated Americans released earlier in May.

All people, regardless of their vaccination status, will be required to continuing wearing masks and practicing social distancing in hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, and in transportation hubs such as airports, bus stations, and all forms of public transportation. Community members will be required to continue wearing masks in public-facing state offices such as the DMV and worksites that are closed to the public — such as warehouses and manufacturing facilities.

Masks will also continue to be required in child care centers, schools, and summer camps. Even with a handful of facilities still requiring masks, Monday’s announcement is a massive landmark in New Jersey’s fight against COVID-19.

“Because of the tremendous progress we’ve made over the last several weeks in particular, today I’m signing an executive order that will lift the statewide mask mandate this Friday, May 28,” Gov. Murphy said during his COVID-19 briefing on Monday. “If you are not vaccinated, we encourage you in the strongest possible terms to, first of all, get vaccinated, but if not, follow the CDC guidance to wear a face mask in any indoor public setting. We won’t have law enforcement checking people’s vaccination status, but we are asking people to be responsible and do the right thing.”

Individual businesses still have the right to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing measures on their property. However, they are no longer obligated to require people to wear masks or practice social distancing.

As Gov. Murphy noted, unvaccinated community members are still strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks. However, New Jersey, like its neighbors in New York and Pennsylvania, will rely on the honor system and trust that community members who haven’t been inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine yet will choose to continue following safety protocols.

In addition to the changes taking effect on May 28, New Jersey will remove capacity limits on large venues with more than 1,000 fixed seats effective June 4. The state will remove all indoor gathering limits on June 4, as well — changes that pave the way for sporting events, concerts, and other large-scale events to take place in New Jersey with no capacity limits.

New Jersey instituted a number of COVID-19-related safety restrictions in March 2020 when the pandemic began, but as its vaccine rollout has continued, the state has rolled back these changes. The most recent swath of changes was also New Jersey’s most extensive, as indoor capacity limits on most businesses were lifted effective May 19.

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